It has been a huge year for Black films as movies with a predominantly Black cast and staff have dominated the box office and snagged many coveted awards. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t more work to be done.
“Divergent” star Mekhi Phifer is happy to see the progress Black films have made but he says that there still isn’t enough diversity in the type of Black films that actually become successful.
“We have a lot of films and stories to be told,” he told Sister 2 Sister Magazine. “Right now, what’s mainstream is more the comedies and more slapstick. We’re still missing out on the dramas or real romance films or action films.”
According to Phifer, that should be the next frontier for making Black cinema more mainstream than it currently is.
“We still haven’t become totally mainstream yet,” he said. “There’s still a ways to go.”
Phifer certainly has a point.
So far, Black comedies have been huge winners at the box office with films like “Ride Along” and “About Last Night” more than doubling their production budgets.
Historical dramas have also been huge hits with “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” becoming the highest-grossing Black film of 2013, and “12 Years a Slave” completely dominating this past award season.
In the past few years, a purely romantic film that featured a predominantly Black cast or production team has not been a box office hit. The same can be said for action films.
To make matters worse, the current movie trend for action films is to do a clever remake of a comic book or classic cartoon. During the time these comics and classic shows were created, however, diversity was even harder to come by than it is now; which means many of these roles won’t be given to Black actors nonetheless an entire Black cast.
Already, controversy has been flying around films that decided to cast Black actors for an originally white superhero.
Online petitions were formed when Idris Elba was cast to play the role of Heimdall in the 2011 “Thor” film, and Twitter went into a frenzy when Michael B. Jordan was confirmed to play the role of Johnny Storm in the upcoming “Fantastic Four” film.
Despite his call for a Black action or romance films, Phifer already has his hopes set on a role in a biopic that doesn’t necessarily fit either of those genres.
“I’ve always been an avid fan of Al Green,” he said. “I would love to do the Al Green story. I think his story is a very intriguing one and when you talk about a character arc… His story is the ultimate character arc to me.”
He also expressed his desire to act in and make an Al Green biopic back in 2005 but the project never came to fruition.
Perhaps this time around he’ll actually bring the biopic to life, adding a variety to the landscape of Black films.